By Mel Maurer, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved
Editor’s note: In 2008, the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable moved its meeting site from the Cleveland Playhouse Club to Judson Manor at University Circle. Judson Manor is a beautiful facility with a long history dating back 85 years to its original incarnation as the Wade Park Manor residential hotel that we thought members might find interesting. Judson Manor remained the site of the Roundtable’s meetings until 2020, when the site had to be changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Gilded Age of the early 20th century gave way to World War I and then returned even more gilded during the Roaring 20s – a decade of seemingly never-ending fun, ever-growing riches, and ever-flowing illegal booze.
Cleveland was the nation’s fifth largest city at that time. Its influence, through its financiers, politicians, and industrialists, was felt around the world. It was a city of great wealth with some of the finest hotels in the world, including The Statler, Hollenden, Cleveland, Colonial, and Winton.
Investors in 1921 thought the city needed at least one more luxury hotel. Work then began on what would become Wade Park Manor. They selected land which overlooked Wade Park with its beautiful pond in University Circle. The park and the manor were named after Jeptha Homer Wade – railroader, banker, and industrialist – who helped found Case School of Applied Science (later Case Institute of Technology) and Western Reserve University (now merged as Case Western Reserve University). Wade donated the land for the park and Western Reserve University.
The investors hired noted architects George B. Post & Sons and Charles Schneider to design their luxury residential hotel. Post & Sons were well known as the designers of the New York Stock Exchange building, the New York Times building, the Wisconsin State Capitol, and other landmarks around the country including the Cleveland Trust Company building. Schneider, a native Clevelander, along with Post & Sons, also designed the Hotel Statler, Fenn Tower, and Stan Hywet Hall in Akron. Schneider, on his own, designed Plymouth Church (where he was also a member), City Hall in Shaker Heights as well as many elegant residences in and around Cleveland. Wade Park Manor’s 143 suites were designed by designer and hotelier Albert Pick (Pick-Carter Hotels).
Wade Park Manor opened in January of 1923, one of three new hotels to open that year in the University Circle area alone (the Park Lane Villa, still standing right next door, being one of the other two). With its grand lobby, marble floors, fine woodwork, designer ceilings, luxurious suites, and magnificent dining and meeting rooms, Wade Park Manor was soon considered the finest hotel between Chicago and New York. A great success, it hosted a “who’s who” of its era, including for example, Gertrude Stein, Walt Disney, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. Babe Ruth and the Yankees also stayed there when they played the Indians at League Park.
The stock market crash of 1929 and the depression that followed ended the gilded lives of many and brought down many places that catered to luxury. Wade Park Manor survived, but only as an ever-declining hotel, until it became a retirement facility in 1964, operated by The Christian Residences Foundation until purchased by The Judson Retirement Community in 1983. Remodeled, it reopened as Judson Manor – an upscale retirement residence. Judson, itself, is historic, dating back to its founding in 1906 as the Baptist Home of Northern Ohio. With matching funds from John D. Rockefeller, it opened its first residence on Prospect Avenue in 1907.
Most of the facility’s original fine features survived its declining years and with the millions invested by Judson have now been restored. To walk into its lobby is to step back into the 1920s, and to meet in its rooms is to experience those days. Living there, meeting there, or just visiting is a special experience.
The first time I gave a talk there last year, I could not help but think how neat it would be for the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable to gather there each month – as do the Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution. My thanks to Jon Thompson and the executive committee for their support in making it happen this season. We will see you there.